Help Your New Dog Make a Fresh Start with the Rover Reboot
Many people, in their excitement over welcoming a new dog into their home, plan some of the following activities during their new dog's first week home:
- introductions to friends and family
- playtime with their other dog
- a trip to the pet store, groomer, or dog park
Sounds reasonable, right?
Wait! Your new dog needs time to decompress and process all the changes she's experienced. She probably lost at least one family. Either she spent time as a stray or watched her family walk away, leaving her at the shelter, where she had no idea what would happen to her next. Her family never came for her, but it's probably safe to assume that she looked for them every day. If you rush her into too much too soon, she may develop behavior problems.
To give your new dog the best chance of success, we urge you to use the rover reboot (also known as the 2-week shutdown) during her first few days or weeks in her new home. Use the behavior of your new dog and other pets, if any, to determine how long to continue the reboot (2 weeks is average). This will help your new dog begin to see you as her protector and kind leader; to understand that she is home; and to let her true personality shine through.
How does one "reboot" a dog?
During the reboot period, keep your new dog either in a crate or on a leash—yes, leashed inside your home as well as outside. (Remove the leash when she's crated.) Keep the leash attached to you or let her drag it. Introduce her to the house and yard by walking her around (on leash) a couple of rooms per day. Do not allow your new dog to have free run of the house. Avoid taking her to the pet store, groomer, or dog park. The only car rides should be to the vet.
If she misbehaves, calmly say, "ah-ah," gently tug on the leash, and redirect her. If she starts to have an accident in the house, say "ah-ah" while you pick up the leash and hurry her outside. (And be sure to praise her every time she pees or poops outside so she gets the idea.)
Not into crating? Don't worry—you can ditch the crate once you feel she's "rebooted." To make crating work for you for now, try these tips:
- Provide all the dog's meals and toys in the crate.
- If you don't want to use a crate, keep your new dog in a small, dog-proofed room or hallway. Try this for short periods at first to be sure she doesn't chew furniture or wood trim.
- To minimize her anxiety (and yours), family members can take turns sleeping next to her crate at night. Put her breakfast in kongs when you leave for the day.
- Try to ignore any crying or barking when she's confined; go to her only when she's quiet.
Very Gradual Introduction to Your Other Dog(s)
The first day, walk the dogs together (one handler per dog) before bringing the new dog into the house; let the dogs' behavior tell you how far apart they should be on the walk. Do not allow them to rush up to each other face-to-face; if both dogs are relaxed, they may approach each other at an angle or they may sniff butts. Try to keep the leashes loose—a tight leash can frustrate some dogs. If possible, walk them together like this daily for the first week.
When you feel they're ready, you can allow the dogs to spend a few minutes of supervised time together inside the house or fenced yard. Keep a hold of the new dog's leash at first; later she can drag the leash. Use the leash to gently remove the new dog if play seems to be getting too rough or if either dog seems uncomfortable. If all is going well, increase the time they spend together; if not, take a step back and slow down the process.
If you're not feeding your new dog in her crate, feed the dogs in separate rooms to avoid a fight over food.
Even Slower Introduction to Your Cat(s)
Keep the new dog separated from your cats using closed doors for at least a week. Let them slowly learn each other's scent: rub a towel on the dog and leave it where the cats hang out; leave a cat-scented towel in the dog's crate. Gradually replace closed doors with baby gates, allowing the new dog and the cats to see each other for short periods (with the dog leashed and with you). If the cats are afraid or if the dog is too excited, take a step back. Avoid any situation that might cause the cats to run away and the dog to chase them—this would reinforce the cats' fear and the dog's excitement.
Show Your Dog How Great Your Kids Are
Children can be scary to dogs. To help create a bond between your kids and your new dog, have your kids regularly provide the dog with the best treats. Make sure the dog is taking treats gently from adults first; if the dog is not taking treats gently, an adult can hold the dog's leash while the child tosses treats to the dog. Help your children learn about dog body language and remind them that most dogs do not like to be hugged.
Sources and Additional Reading
Bella-Reed Pit Bull Rescue. Give 'em a Break! Tips for Introducing Your Foster or Adopted Dog into Your Home. [No date.] Available online.
Lawson, Alicia. Bringing a New Dog Home! 24 February 2016. Available online: Available online.
Miller, Pat. Oh, Baby. 2005. Available online.
Miller, Pat. Buddy, Go to Bed. 2000. Available online.